Crackle had talent of some of their upcoming web projects in attendance during the Sony’s Television Critics Association (TCA) event, Tuesday, August 3rd at the Beverly Hilton and Tubefilter was there to get the inside scoop. Talent on hand for interviews included Michael Panes (Easy To Assemble), Jonathan Dore, and Randy and Jason Sklar (Back on Topps, [“(Layers)”]). The shows they were there to talk about are Backwash and Held-Up, respectfully; two witty, off-the-cuff comedies that show that Crackle seems to be treading farther from the slick, production-value heavy dramas of their recent web past such as The Bannen Way and Urban Wolf. Both series have impressive casts including some comedy and improv as well as television and film veterans.
Written by and starring Josh Malina (Sports Night, The West Wing) and directed by Danny Leiner (Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle), this surreal comedy follows three bizarre eccentrics—Malina, Michael Ian Black, and Michael Panes (pictured left at TCA event)—who end up on a cross-country police chase in an ice cream truck after one of them accidentally robs $100,000 from a local bank. The series is a 13-part parody of Masterpiece Theater, with a different star introducing the next “chapter” of the series each week. Star cameos include appearances from Jon Hamm, John Stamos, Sarah Silverman, John Cho, Allison Janney, Hank Azaria, Michael Vartan, amongst others.
The name may not sound totally familiar to you, but Michael Panes actually has quite the pedigree when it comes to acting and the web space. One of the first stories he shared with me was about knowing Felicia Day (I was wearing a The Guild t-shirt) back when they both lived in Austin, TX and he was writing for an MTV show she was an extra on. They both play violin and bonded over that (he says ‘hello Felicia, if you are reading this’). Panes is also an extremely talented character actor who completely transforms himself in every role he takes, which might also lead to the “that guy doesn’t look familiar…” vibe. Especially when you consider his last web role was as Spazzy Sheraton on a few episodes of Easy to Assemble.
Tubefilter asked Panes to talk about the process of shooting Backwash. “It was like doing an actual movie. We had a three-week shooting schedule,” said Janes. “Fairly big budget for a web series, though the interesting thing about Backwash, it’s a very very ambitious script and the way Josh Molina, who is a great actor who wrote it like it would be a 30 million dollar movie. So there are car chases and animation and special effects … We had a fun time interpolating that for the web show.”
You can watch the Backwash trailer, which was aired at this year’s Comic-Con, above.
Written by The Sklar Brothers and directed by Steve Carr (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Daddy Day Care), the series takes place in the Village People Bank, where a childish and bored teller (Jonathan Dore) is suddenly given more excitement than he had bargained for after his bank is held up by two teams of dim-witted robbers dressed as characters that include Batman and Robin. Over the course of the series, the hostages fall victim to a comedic version of Stockholm Syndrome and begin sympathizing with their captors in a variety of ways.
On asking about how the show came about, Randy and Jason answered in their signature, finishing-each-other’s-sentences-with-hilarious-effects style. “It’s a great story,” began Randy. “Well, never say it’s a great story. To start off by saying it’s a great story, then if it’s not that great…” interrupts Jason. “It’s a terrible story,” quipped Randy.
All joking aside, it is an interesting story. “This concept Held Up, was a television pilot that Sony did for Comedy Central originally in 2008 and Jason and I were cast as characters in it, it wasn’t even our project,” said Randy. “A guy who is now a good friend of ours created it. A great talented writer, I think he’s writing now on Friends With Benefits … He created this thing for Sony that got sold to Comedy Central. We were brought in on a really interesting casting choice because they were casting two separate people but we came in and said, ‘what if these guys actually had a relationship, what if they were brothers, what if they were twins’.”
“Long story short,” continued Jason, “the show didn’t end up being picked up on Comedy Central but Sony still really loved it and said we want to do this as a project and we have Crackle that can incubate ideas and also just be a great destination site—The Bannen Way got something like 14 million views on the site alone—that’s amazing,” finished Jason.
“So they said, ‘we want people to see this. We love it, we don’t want it to be some pilot that sits on the shelf that never gets seen.’ So they asked Gene (creator of original Held Upconcept) and Gene was busy and said, ‘you should really have these guys (indicating themselves) write it, said Randy. “And we’d had success on the web with Back on Topps and [“(Layers)”] They approached us early last year 2009 and said all right, let’s do it.”
Tubefilter asked about the experience of working with Crackle. Randy explained, “We’ve worked on a lot of different projects on a lot of different networks and studios but [Sony] has been amazing with this process. It’s not always that you say that,” quipped Randy. “They were very hand’s off when they needed to be hand’s off, they helped us when they needed to help us.” “And in the end,” he added, “I think the end product was something we were proud of.”
Both shows will premiere in the fall on Crackle. Stay tuned for more on both series.
Photos via Wire Image from TCA Event.